Embroidered pockets

Earlier this year I was travelling, and looking for a project to take with me on the trip. As my regular projects are rather a hand full, I decided to try my hand at embroideriy.

I’d been wanting to make an 18th century pocket for a little while. I currently use a very functional, and very ugly black pocket I made very quickly years ago. It works, but having admired other people’s embroidered pockets, I wanted something prettier. As embroidering a pocket takes some time, yet is all hand work and small enough to fit in a carry on, it was the perfect project for a trip!

I really enjoyed working on the pocket, and finished the embroidery soon after I got back. So when I had another trip shortly after finishing the first, I decided to make a pair!

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This was my first try at ‘real’ embroidery, although I had done corset flossing before. Because of that, I saw this mostly as a practise project. I drew the designs inspired by originals, but not really copying anything. The first (pink) pocket was sewn from colors I already had, the second one I ordered colors for.

During the trip, I kept my materials in this lovely antique cardboard box.

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Both pockets were started at the airport. The branches are done in chainstitches

 

I worked on both pieces during flights, and during the stays at times. As both were solo trips, it was nice to have an activity for during tea, lunch, or slow evenings.

 

The embroidery was done on linen. After finishing, I constructed the pocket (also by hand). The finishing was done completely with whatever I had laying around.

 

The pink one has a back from Ikea cotton, the blue one a scrap of blue cotton. Both are bound with left-over pieces of binding.

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The binding was stitched on with small stitches, but actually came together quite quickly. The slit was bound with white bias tape on both.

 

The second pocket was sewn together on a train, continueing the travel tradition. It took about 1,5 hour start to finish.

 

I decided to make two separate pockets, instead of attaching both to the same ties. This way I can choose to wear just one, and am a bit more flexible on positioning when wearing both.

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To finish up, some closer looks at the embroidery! It’s definitely not perfect, but I’m pretty happy given that I’d never done either a chainstitch or a satin stitch before.

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The Isabella Dress

End of June I visited Edinburgh, to attend the event at the National Museum of Scotland where a team of dressmakers recreated the Isabella MacTavish Fraser dress.

This is one of those rare surviving garments which people might recognize by name alone. But for everyone else, it’s this garment:

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Isabella MacTavish’s Wedding Dress, c. 1785. Photo courtesy of the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

 

This dress is special for several reasons. The first thing which speaks to people it that it was a wedding dress, is still owned by the same family, and was worn by several generations of brides after Isabella.

The second thing, is that it is the only known surviving example of 18th century women’s dress made of tartan. Add to that the lure of Scotland, the vibrancy of the colors, (and the current popularity of Outlander also doesn’t hurt), and you get a garment which has fans all over the world.

One of those is Rebecca Olds (of Timesmith Dressmaking), whose interest in this garment resulted in the event where this dress was re-created. The goal of this event was to discover more about the dress, it’s construction, it’s quirks, and how it would have been made at the time. To realize this, a team of dressmakers was brought on board, and end of June, they recreated the dress in front of a live audience at the National museum of Scotland. And I got to be there!

The first thing I did when arriving at the museum Saturday morning was to visit the original dress. As always: it’s prettier in person! The colors are still so very vibrant. I mainly took some pictures of the details.

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The fron of the dress. You can faintly see the line of stitching where the lacing strip is attached.

 

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The back pleats!

 

It’s important to note that the goal of this project was to make a recreation, not a reproduction. The main difference is that a reproduction is meant to be as exactly as the original as possible. However, this typically means sewing based on the exact measurements of the original. And ironically, that would mean that the process of making the dress would be different from the original. For in the 18th century, women’s dress was typically cut and fitted on the body, which means that very little exact measurements are involved. So instead, the team aimed for a recreation. They had a model with them, and the dress was cut and fit to her. Some care was taken to replicate some of the quirks of the original, but in the end, no two bodies are the same, so the recreation is a little different from the original in some ways.

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Fitting to the body

 

The first day, the first step was to cut the fabric. The fabric was specially made for this project, woven by Prickly Thistle. They studied the original fabric, counted the threads, and made a lovely reproduction. In the end, they added a couple of strategically placed threads to ensure the fabric was at least as wide as the original. This was necessary as their looms were stronger than the 18th century equivalent would have been, and therefore slightly ‘shrunk’ the fabric. The fabric is a so-called ‘hard’ tartan, woven of worsted threads in red, green and blue.

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Cutting

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The fabric had not been stretched, so had to be mangled a bit to ensure everything was lying straight and on grain.

 

During two days, the dress was sewn completely by hand. At any time, there were about 2 to 3 people sewing, while someone else was answering questions and talking to the audience. I learned so much from the interactions alone, and it was lovely as well to meet all the other interested people in the audience!

The first step was cutting the skirts, and the front of the bodice and shoulder straps. After this, the back was cut, and the sleeves and cuffs. All cutting was done based on measurements and the previously fitted linen lining.

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Marking the skirts

 

The first bits of sewing was the main skirt seams (aside from those to the back panel, as that ran into the bodice), and attaching the lining to the front of the bodice.

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Sewing the front to the lining

 

Then came the cuffs, which were pleated, and then lined, and the sleeve seams were basted. The final thing to do on the first day was to pleat the back. Here, the original was followed as closely as possible.

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Sewing & lining the cuffs

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Checking pictures of the original when pleating the back

 

Day 2 started with the first fitting. First, the front and back were put in place on the body, and then the shoulders were loosely pinned. The main focus here was to fit the side seams, where the lining of the front was pinned to the back. After this, the sleeves were fitted.

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Fitting the bodice seams

 

Then, the sleeve seams were sewn, as well as the side seams. As the side seam initially goes through the lining of the front only, the front is then folded over top, and top-stitched in place. Simultaneously, the skirt was pleated so it would fit the bodice.

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Folding over the front of the bodice to be top-stitched to the back

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Pleating the skirt

 

Then came the second fitting, in which the skirts were fitted, and the sleeves set. The skirt has a hem which is on grain, so the length difference between front/back/sides is taken up at the top. The sleeves were pinned to the bodice in this fitting, and the cuffs were set.

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Fitting the skirt to the bodice, ensuring a level hem.

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Setting sleeves

 

The final steps were to set the sleeves, sew on the skirt and cuffs, and fix the shoulder straps in place!

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Sewing in the sleeves

 

One of my favorite things about witnessing the whole process were all the little quirks of the original dress which came to light. On first glance, it looks like a fairly typical 18th century dress, but this recreation highlighted a couple of oddities. Firstly, the style of the dress, which is actually relatively old-fashioned. The wide back-pleats and winged cuffs are typical of the 1740s and 1750s. However, the green deye used was patented in 1775, which makes the family story of it being Isabellas wedding dress in 1785 very likely.

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The cuff on the original

 

Some construction choices were also unusual. Both the front and back of the dress were cut on the straight of grain, while fronts were usually cut on the bias to form around the body better. It also features tilted lacing strips sewn to the inside, which is uncommon (especially the angle). These might have been there to help keep the bodice smooth around the body.

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Showing the lacing strips on the inside

 

The sleeves of the original were also set a bit unusually, in that they were caught in the back underneath the outer pleat. This shows that the pleat was stitched in place after the sleeve was set. The final oddity in construction was the skirt attachment. Usually, skirts are pleated and then seamed to the bodice. But in this dress, the pleats are first folded over, whip-stitched to keep the fold, and then stitched to the bodice through all layers. This creates quite a bit of bulk in that seam!

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The original dress. You can see the sleeve being caught in the back pleat, and the tiny stitches at the top of the sleeve, holding the lining in place.

 

Finally, there were some simple ‘mistakes’ made on this gown, most notably in the sleeves. The sleeves are taken in at the top, indicating that they were originally too wide. There is some piecing at the bottom, so they were also a bit too short. But then they were too tight at the bottom, which was fixed by a simple ‘slit’ at the bottom, which was then covered up by the cuffs. This was recreated in the new dress. Finally, the original also show that the lining of the sleeve was a bit too short, as it does not go all the way to the shoulder. The original shows a little line of stitching at the top of the sleeve, catching the lining in place. Oops.

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Georgia showing what it was like trying to lift her arms before the slits in the sleeve were caught.

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A little slit hidden under the cuff fixes the problem!

 

At the end of two days of hard work, figuring out how to recreate the oddities, stitching seams, and answering our questions, the dress was done! Well, very nearly, as some final sewing to the shoulder strap had to be finished after the museum closed and we had to leave. But it was enough done to show us the final project, and they finished up the dress that same evening!

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I loved attending this event, learning more about this dress, and 18th century dressmaking in general. Seeing every step of the process really helps understand how these gowns were put together, and also puts into perspective how much work goes into it! If it looks quick from this overview, keep in mind that there were 7 experienced dressmakers working on this for two days! They had the major tasks of not just making a hand-sewn dress, but making a recreation of the Isabella dress, which definitely meant stepping outside of comfort zones and figuring out how to recreate some oddities. The interaction was also really lovely. Everyone was very generous in sharing their knowledge and experiences, and answering questions. Through learning about the little quirks, this dress really comes to live!

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The team:

Rebecca Olds: Timesmith Dressmaking (Project leader)

Lauren Stowell: American Duchess

Abby Cox: American Duchess

Peryn Westerhof Nyman: Isabel Northwode Costumes

Katy Stockwell: Regency Regalia

Alexandra Bruce: Alexandra Bruce Costumes

Georgia Gough (Model)

Flora Macleod Swietlicki 

 

The fabric was woven by Prickly Thistle, The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is the current custodian of the dress (although it’s still privatly owned), the National Museum of Scotland, hosted this event and currently exhibits the dress (until November 10, 2019)

For updates on the project, (talks, and a documentary which is in the makes), keep an eye on the Timesmith Dressmaking facebook page.

Femmes Fatales in the Gemeentemuseum

A week ago I finally got the chance to drop by the current fashion exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in the Hangue. Named ‘Femmes Fatales’, it’s a tribute to female fashion designers. It was a lovely exhibition, with some beautiful pieces by both early 19th century (Chanel, Lanvin, etc) and 20th century female designers.

However, I spent most time in the first room, which was dedicated to the 18th century female dressmakers, the marchandes de modes. There was a whole range of beautiful dresses on display, so I took the opportunity to take some pictures!

The descriptions are the originals as provided by the museum.

 

Mantua, ca. 1760-65, Silk, Linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise, ca. 1780-1785. Silk, cotton

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1790-1794, Silk

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Robe a L’Anglaise, ca. 1765-1770, Silk, Linen

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Robe A la Francaise, ca 1775-1785 Silk, linen, whalebone

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Over dress and skirt, (altered, skirt originally ca 1740-1760). Ca. 1780-1790, silk, linen, metal.

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Robe A L’Anglaise (altered). ca 1775-1799, Silk, linen, cotton

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Girl’s gown. Ca. 1770-1775, Silk, linen, whalebone

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Robe A la Franciaise (missing part replaced during conservation). Ca 1740-1760, Silk, linen

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Robe A L’anglaise, ca 1790-1794, silk, linen

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Robe A l’Anglaise (altered in 1930), ca. 1775-1780, silk, linen

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Robe a la Francaise, ca. 1780-1795, silk

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Wearing the 1780s dress – Salon de la Societe Raffinee & Winterball at castle D’Ursel

I already posted pictures of my finished 1780s dress, but not yet of the event I wore it to in October. Last weekend, I wore the dress a second time, with some small changes. So it’s time for a post on these two lovely events!

The Salon de Societe de Raffinee was organized for the second time this year, by Shari of La Rose Passementarie.  It’s an evening event centered around artists showing their work, and was held in kasteel Oud-Poelgeest, a beautiful venue.

 

I was curious what an evening event without dancing would be like, as I’ve mostly been to balls so far. But it was really lovely, and with the artists displaying their works, the dance performances, the cake, and mostly: the other people to chat with, the evening flew by.

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

This was also the event which first sparked the idea of the 1780s gown, as it’s theme was the 18th century salon. There were some people with costumes from other periods as well, but the majority was dressed in 18th century. And everyone looked very lovely!

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With Sanna and Irina, thanks to Irina for the picture!

 

I wore my dress the ‘plain’ way, without any trim. Although it was an evening event, I figured I could get away with wearing my hat, so that was the show piece. Aside from the hat, I wore the dress with a ribbon belt and fichu, and my black Dunmore shoes.

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Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

Not long after I decided to make an 18th century dress for the Salon, the theme of the Winterball in castle D’Ursel was announced: 1773. They do a different time period every year, and this one was quite handy! I figured I’d just wear the same dress as there was only a month between events. Although my dress is a tad later, making a completely new one was not really an option.

I did want some variation, though, so I decided to trim the dress after the Salon, and wear it to the Winterball with trim, and without the hat, belt and fichu. I ended up also lowering the neckline a bit, as it turned out a tad too high. Not too visible with the fichu, but without it would be a bit too ‘modest’ for 18th century. They like low necklines in this period!

During this summer, I found beautiful antique white cotton bobbin lace which was perfect for this project. It’s obviously not period, but the lace is quite fine, and cotton, which is always difficult too find.

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The lace (along with the other treasures from the market)

 

I used a number of portraits for inspiration. In the end, I made sleeve trim out of two layers, and neckline trim out of one layer. I gathered the lace onto tapes, which are then sewn to the dress. This way, they’re easily removable if I want to wear the dress without lace.

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One of my main inspirations for the lace & bows

 

For the ball, I added dark green ribbons around my arms, as well as little bows on the arms, and a bigger one to fill the neckline. Dark green, to match with my green Kensingtons I wore to the ball.

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This was my first time at the Winterball, and I had a great time. There was dancing, but also a room where you could listen to period (live) music, a buffet with 18th century ‘snacks’, and the whole castle to explore.

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Pretty antique mirror

 

Everyone looked really beautiful, and I was happy to see that I was not the only one going for slightly later 18th century. I always come away from events very inspired by the variety of beautiful costumes, and this one was no exception.

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The chintz squad

 

I also really liked wearing my dress twice, quite soon after finishing. I spent a lot of time making it, so it’s good to get some use out of it. And with the new trim, it does feel quite different from the first iteration!

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Thanks to the organizers of both events, and to all the lovely people I chatted and danced with!

 

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With Josselin, Picture by Kristof Dongleur

1780 dressing

When I was getting dressed for the Salon de la Societe raffinee, I also took pictures of my finished 1780s dress. And I figured that it would also be a good time to take pictures of the layers of my undergarments, as I hadn’t actually shown everything yet!

Under my dress, I’m wearing a shift, under petticoat, stays, false rump, two more linen petticoats, a cotton petticoat, a fichu and pocket. Of those, only the fichu is hand-sewn (hand-hemmed at least), and the shift is hand-finished. The petticoats and false rum I just made by machine for speed.

The first step is the shift. A quick note, a 1780’s shift should probably still have cuffs to the sleeves, as those really only disappeared towards the 1790s. However, from the 1780s on, they don’t show underneath the gown sleeves, and it’s always harder to fit gown sleeves over wider sleeves than over narrower ones. So I opted for the more versatile and slightly less HA option to make them rather narrow and without a cuff.

After the shift, It’s stockings, and shoes. Then I put on the bottom petticoat, made of white linen. Then it’s stays (for which I made a simple boned stomacher to further support the center front), and then the false rump. This is what I’m wearing in the following images

 

Then it’s additional layers of petticoats. I wore mine underneath the front point of my stays, but on top of the rest. The front is underneath to keep the center front straight for my dress later on.

 

I made the grey petticoat above for my 1660s gown initially, but it works fine for 18th century as well. After that, it’s another linen (mix) petticoat, this time with stripes.

 

And then yet another petticoat. This one is of cotton (Ikea), and prettier, as this one could show when lifting the skirts.

 

Those are the petticoats. Then it’s accessories, namely fichu and pocket (which is a bit invisible here, as it’s the least historical thing about the whole outfit. I need to make a new one, but the current ugly one is functional at least). After that, it’s finally time to put on the dress. The front of the skirt is put on first and tied around the back. Then the bodice is put on. These pictures show the process before the bodice is pinned shut in the front.

 

And then it’s done! All signs of undergarments are hidden, but the layers are really important for getting the right shape!

 

Some people asked me if the 4 petticoats weren’t too heavy, and I have to say I found it no problem at all. Linen is not very heavy, nor is cotton, and my silk dress is the lightest of all. It might be different if one of the petticoats were wool, or stitched, which would make it a bit heavier. But in general, I think we are just not used to heavy skirts, and modern costumers (myself included) are typically inclined to wear too few petticoats rather than too many. They are all worn on top of the hips, and those can carry a bit of weight easily, especially when worn on top of stays.

1780s Silver round gown

I posted about the bodice of this gown before, but it’s now officially done!

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This was my big project for this year. A completely hand-sewn 18th century dress, out of silver silk.

It was my first foray into 18th century dressmaking, and I used the American Duchess book as a guide. The pattern is strongly based on the Italian gown in the book. I made some slight alterations to the back neckline, and to make it fit me. To turn it into a round gown, I simply added an extra skirt panel center front.

The bodice construction was done as described in the book (blog post here), and also the main reason I wished to do this by hand, as it’s not quite possible to follow the same techniques when sewing by machine. For instance with the shoulder piece, which is attached to the outside.

 

The skirt was fairly straight-forward, just 3 panels of 150cm wide, with slits on either side of the front panel and pleated at the top.

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Pleating the back skirt, here basted together with red thread. I basted both a couple of cm above and below where the bodice would be attached, so the pleats would stay properly in place when attaching it to the bodice.

 

The skirt was attached to the bodice by top-stitching through all layers from the outside. I then removed the visible basting at the bottom

 

The front panel is attached to a waistband which is tied around the waist before putting on the bodice, while the back panels are stitched to the dress.

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The top of the front panel of the skirt, attached to a waistband

 

Spot the hem! The hem seen from outside (left) and inside (right)

 

The dress is currently untrimmed, and so relatively simple on it’s own. To complete the outfit, I planned to have a sash, fichu and a hat.

The sash was simply a vintage blue ribbon, and the fichu a triangle of very thin white cotton, which I hemmed by hand.

The hat was more work, and the biggest hat I’ve ever made. I based the proportions on a portrait, drawing lines through the face and hat to see how wide the hat was relatively to the head.

One of my main inspirations, and the one I used for scale, is this portrait. Her hair is deceptively wide, just look how it extends almost as far on either side as her head is wide. The hair definitely makes the hat look ‘not quite as huge’.

Portrait of Susanna Gyll by John Hoppner.

 

I’ve long admired the hats made by the Modern Mantua maker, and she really inspired me to look at fashion plates for hat options. In the end, I settled on stripes at the bottom of the brim, and ribbons and bows around the crown.

This fashion plate was one of my main inspirations:

Hats from 1787.

 

I didn’t have striped fabric, and not too much of my base fabric (the dark grey). So I got some paler ribbon, and cut strips of the fabric, and stitched those together to form the covering for the bottom of the crown. I finished the hat by adding two ribbons around the crown with little bows. My method was a bit of a mix-up between the one from the Modern Mantua maker, and from the 1790s hat in the American Duchess guide to 18th century sewing.

 

To finish the full ensemble, I styled a wig. I have very long, quite thin hair, and the idea of untangling it after doing a hedgehog style was slightly terrifying. So wig it was. When I wore it, I curled the front of my hair and blended that into the wig, which worked quite well. The hat really needs the huge hairstyle to give some proportion to it, and I’m quite happy how it worked out!

 

This dress will have a second outing in November, for a ball this time. I have some beautiful antique cotton lace, which I plan to use to trim the neckline and sleeves. Stay tuned for version nr. 2 in a bit over a month!

For now, pictures of the whole thing worn!

The dress from the back and sides.

 

With the sash:

 

And some portraits of with the hat!

 

Wool Damask

For most historical costumers, finding the perfect fabric is one of the most difficult parts of getting the look right. One of the main difficulties is that many fabrics used in the past just aren’t made anymore in the same quality, or they are too expensive for a hobby seamstress. Just finding really fine linen is nearly impossible.

One of my favourite historical fabrics is wool damask. And it’s another of those fabrics which has sort of died out. It just isn’t made anymore, which is a shame, because it’s stunning.

Wollen damast, Norwich | Modemuze

 

Yes, that’s wool. Wool damask is two-toned, and pretty much always in the same color palette. So you get a lighter/darker combination, so light green with dark green, dark blue with black, or beige and brown.

Wool damask is also usually glazed. It’s treated in such a way that it gets a shiny finish, making it almost look a bit like silk damask. It would’ve been a cheaper than true silk damask, but gives the same impression. The patterns of the damask were definitely inspired by their silk counterparts.

For comparison, an 18th century silk damask:

 

And a wool damask one:

Rok van wol, lichtgroen met grote witte bloem en zoom en splitten afgezet met koord | Modemuze

 

Wool damask was used for skirts in the 18th century, and continued in traditional clothing throughout the 19th century. They were probably often also worn as petticoat under the upper skirt, as they’re a little less fancy than the silk ones.

Some of them are pretty stunning though, so I definitely think they were worn as upper skirt as well. Look how shiny!

Rok | Modemuze

 

The wool damask was used mostly in skirts, but also in men’s waistcoats and in stays. In some regional wear parts of the stays were visible at times, calling for fancy fabrics.

Korset of rijglijf van wollen damast, blauw met groene bloemen, met rijgsluiting middenvoor en een schootje van losse pandjes | Modemuze

 

The richer farmers would’ve worn wool waistcoats as well.

 

Despite the popularity in this country, the wool damask worn in the Netherlands was mostly not actually made here. Instead, this fabric was imported from England, Norwich to be exact. Interestingly enough, I’ve never really seen it in English collections though, suggesting that it was primarily an export product. Wool damask was woven on narrow looms (giving much narrower fabrics than common today), and so that the back of the fabric ‘mirrors’ the colors on the right side, as with all damask. Some more information on this fabric written by Meg Andrews is here. It became a staple of some Dutch dress, and I suspect the skirts in these well-known prints might be from wool damask:

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in plaid/checks, and cap in floral) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "North Holland." - Netherlands - Dutch.

A lady from Zaandam

1770s - 18th century - woman's outfit with mixed print fabrics (jacket in floral, skirt in a different floral, apron in solid, and neckerchief either in stripes or simply showing pleats/folds) - From "An album containing 90 fine water color paintings of costumes." Turin : [s.n.] , [ca.1775]. In the collection of the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. Underneath the illustration is handwritten in pencil "Hamburgh" (I think that's what it says!) Hamburg, Germany.

A lady from Friesland

 

Some more, beautiful 18th century skirts, all from the Dutch Openluchtmuseum:

Petticoat, The Netherlands, fabric: Norwich, England, 18th century. Green silk damask woven with large flower and leaf motifs.

Rok van wollen damast, Zaanstreek, 1700-1800 | Modemuze

Rok van blauw-bruine wollen damast, West-Friesland | Modemuze

Rok van achttiende-eeuwse wollen damast, Noord-Holland | Modemuze

 

One of my more prized possessions is a black wool damask skirt, probably from the late 19th or early 20th century. This one is from the Veluwe, where these skirts were still worn as petticoats (underneath a plain black skirt) with the traditional costume. It’s constructed pretty much the same as an 18th century petticoat would be. It’s gathered at the top, with a flat front, and two side slits. It’s got one tuck in the skirt, and a velvet band a little above the hem. The bottom has got a bit of fluffy trim to protect it, and it’s got another ribbon as well as a hem facing on the inside to protect the fabric.

The full skirt, front & back:

 

A close up of the fabric, left from the outside, right the inside.

 

The top is tightly cartridge pleated to a waistband.

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Despite the age, the fabric is still very pretty. The velvet trim and hem facings clearly show wear, but the main skirt is still in very good condition. This was another reason these skirts were so popular, the wool fabric wears very well. If only they still made fabric like this today!

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Round gown – bodice progress

My past couple of post have been about undergarments for my 18th century project. At the same time I’ve been slowly progressing on the gown itself. I’m making a round gown, so with a full skirt, and aiming for 1780s.

My fabric is a light grey / silver silk. The pattern is somewhat old-fashioned for the 1780’s, which sees similar two-toned patterns, but which are generally more flower-like, and less baroque.

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Nevertheless, the pattern does have some more naturalistic elements. And given the penchant people had for re-using ‘older’ fabrics, I’m calling it plausible enough.

I started my patterning with the pattern for the Italian gown in the American Duchess Guide to 18th century dress making. My first mock-up was just exactly the pattern in the book, and that was already pretty close. In the end, the things I changed most were the angle of the shoulder strap, the height of the back, and the width of the strap. Below is the last mock-up.

 

After that, it was time for the scary part, cutting the fabric! Taking great care to match the pattern on all the pieces.

 

I’m sewing this dress by hand, which is why progress is relatively slow. It’s quite a suitable project for a first ‘all by hand dress’ though, as I’m not planning on adding much trim.

First up were the boning channels center back, and then constructing the back. On the back pieces all allowances were folded inward, and then all 4 layers were stitched together in one go.

 

Next up was attaching the front silk to the lining with small prick stitches. After that, I could fit again. My silk was a little less stretchy than my mock-up, so I had to let it out a bit on the side seams. (So definitely good that I did this fitting). I also took out the center-front line on each side, and re-did those as they weren’t really straight on the body after all.

 

Then it was time to sew the side seams. These were first sewn with the back silk piece and both lining pieces, allowance to the right side. The front silk piece was then folded over and in, and prick-stitched. I actually did the second seam the wrong way first time, including the front silk instead of the back…  So I ripped it out and re-did it. A bit more painful than when the seam is sewn by machine, but if I’m going to do this by hand, I’m going to do it right…

All seams are sewn with grey silk thread (if only because it’s easier to source than linen). Some close-ups of the insides. From left to right: the back seam, side seam, and center-front.

 

Final thing to do was to sew the front strap lining to the bodice. This is what it looks like now. The shoulder strap in silk will be one of the last things, sewn in place after the sleeve is in. I’m currently working on the skirts first though.

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A new petticoat – and a note on red-white chintz

As mentioned in my last post, I wanted more petticoats for my 1780s dress. I know from ladies in more regional dress in the 18th century (which followed fashion quite closely), that they probably wore at least 4 petticoats 1. As I can’t really imagine fashionable ladies wearing fewer, I’d ideally have 4 for my ensemble as well. One plain linen bottom one, underneath the false rump. One simple linen one as first one over the rump, one striped linen or wool one over the rump, and a final, prettier, printed cotton one as top ‘under’ petticoat. The top petticoat was usually the prettiest, as that one might show when lifting up the skirt.

When writing the last post, I had one grey linen petticoat, which I’ll be wearing right on top of the rump. Now, I’ve also added the final, printed cotton petticoat to the list!

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It’s made the same way as my grey linen petticoat, following this tutorial.  Basically, you take a two big rectangles and sew them together on the sides leaving open a slit at the top. You then fold down the top so the hem will even out over a rump (longer in the back), and them the bottom. Then the top is pleated so each side is a little larger than the waist measurement, and you add a waistband and ties. Very simple, and nice for a quick side project, especially if you cheat and sew it by machine as I did.

 

My petticoat is made of cotton, printed with red flowers. If it looks familiar, that might be right, as it’s made from one of the new Ikea duvets.

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In the costuming community, Ikea is known for some fabrics which are based on 18th century textiles. As such, they’re actually reasonably historically accurate, though sometimes colors are slightly off, and not all of them are equally good. Plus side is also that they’re very easy to get a hold of, and often relatively cheap!

This particular line is new, and is a two-color design. The flowers are quite small, and there’s a fair bit of white space which makes it most suitable for later 18th century styles.

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The color way is what makes this a little bit unusual as a chintz reproduction. By far most chintz is multi-colored. Two-tone designs are quite a bit rarer. If there are two colors, it’s either white-black, black-white, white-blue, or white red. The white-black and blue-white combinations were often worn for mourning, especially in regional costume.

Wentke from Hindeloopen for light mourning. Cotton painted in India, 1750-1800.

Wentke (from Hindeloopen) for light mourning, in white and blue. Fries museum

The red-white chintz is often called ‘milk and blood’ in Dutch. You see it most often in the costume of Hindeloopen, where it was used specifically for bridal clothing.

Bridal Wentke from Hindeloopen. Zuiderzeemuseum.

 

Although a bit rarer, you do see ‘fashionable’ dress in white and red as well. This jacket is a very nice example.

 

Jak met lange mouwen in sits met rode bloemenranken (zogenaamd melk en bloed sits); model met maagstuk, ellebooglange mouwen en brede schootpanden die in plooien vastgenaaid zijn; sluit midden voor met koperen haken en ogen; voering in wit linnenHet maagstuk is een beetje uitgelaten bovenaan. Het sits bestaat uit niet op rapport aan elkaar genaaide fragmenten; waarschijnlijk alle van hetzelfde patroon. Het rechtervoorpand bestaat uit 12 stukken; het linker voorpand uit 10 stukken (mogelijk in beide meer stukken in de dichtgenaaide plooien. De rechterschouderpand bestaat uit 2 stukken; de rugpand heeft 7 stukken. In veel fragmenten zijn oude naaisporen die wijzen op herbruik. De voering bestaat uit stukken van verschillende witte linnenweefsels.

MoMu Antwerpen

 

All in all, the fabric is pretty close to historical, and a nice choice for a petticoat which might show on occasion!

Fries museum. Petticoat with red flowers.

Coupon of chintz, blue flowers on white ground, with the VOC (East-Indian Trading company) stamp showing. The VOC first brought Indian chintz to the Netherlands

Chintz from the Fries museum, looking quite similar to the little Ikea flowers!

 

1. [Source: Aangekleed gaat uit, streekkleding en cultuur in Noord-Holland 1750-1900.  M. Havermans-Dikstaal, 1999]

False rump – 1780s

Aside from stays, my 1780s round gown will need some more undergarments. A shift, false rump, and at least two petticoats. I’ve got the grey linen petticoat I wore under my 1660s gown, but the rest still required making.

As of this weekend, however, I now also have a false rump. As this fashion plate shows, skirts grew round later in the century, and could be quite big.

Cabinet des Modes ou les Modes Nouvelles, 1 août 1786, Pl. I, A.B. Duhamel, Buisson, 1786

Rijksmuseum, 1786

 

A shape like this requires a little more help than just petticoats (although those are definitely crucial as well!). Enter: the false bum. Whereas the typical wide silhouette of the 18th century was mostly achieved through hoops, this round shape was probably the result of strategically shaped ‘pillows’.

I haven’t been able to find any existant examples of 18th century false rumps, but there’s a number of descriptions of them. Moreover, we have a couple of delightful satiric prints such as this one:

The Bum Shop, published by S.W.Fores, London, 1785. The British Museum. via 2NHG

This prent is wonderful, as it also gives shapes. The size is very probably ofer the top, but it does show several different types of false rumps.

For my 1780’s dress, I wanted what is termed a ‘split rump’, so one with a bit of a ‘gap’ in the middle. This gap allows the typical low back point of the 1780’s fitted back dresses to lie nicely against the body.

1776 dress with low point in the back, MET museum

 

I know of this type of false rump thanks to the American Duchess guide to 18th century dress making (book), which includes the pattern for one in their chapter on the Italian gown. However, in their version the two ‘cushions’ lie rather far apart, allowing the skirt to ‘dip’ between them a relatively far down. I wanted my split rump to be just a little more subtle, which is purely a case of personal preference.

So I took inspiration from the satirical prent above, and slightly adapted the AD pattern to be a bit more ’round’, so the edges touch more. The split rumps at the top row on the satirical plate were the shape I was going for. I kept the ‘skirt’ beneath the cushions as in the AD book, and also followed their instructions for making it up (I sewed it by machine though, and filled it with modern stuffing). I also made sure that though I changed the shape and size of the cushions, the total hip circumference is the same as adviced, which was 2x the waist measurement.

My pattern is both a bit longer, and wider than the original. To make sure the shape wouldn’t become too big, I made two stitching lines in each pillow, limiting how much stuffing could go in.

Before stuffing:

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And the finished thing! As you can see, there’s a small gap between the pillows, but it is quite subtle.

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One side:

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And what it looks like with a petticoat on top! I’ll want at least one more, and then the dress will go over as well. This will round it off a bit more.

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And what it looks like from the side and front!